The NFL draft is only a few weeks away, and for teams that just missed out on the playoffs in 2017, it represents a chance to add some talent that’ll push them over that hump.
One of those teams is the Baltimore Ravens.They were one play away from the postseason, and will likely need to get there if they want to avoid sweeping changes to the organization. One way to do so is to try and achieve something that they haven’t in years: Nailing Day Two of the draft.
It’s been a long time since Baltimore has really hit on an impact player in rounds 2-3; two of the only notable recent examples are Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan. Williams is an old school but extremely valuable player, while Jernigan had consistency issues that eventually got him shipped over to Philadelphia.
At the end of the day, the Ravens simply have to be better than that. For what has been the second cycle of the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco era (post 2012), one true impact player in Day Two isn’t good enough.
If that coach/quarterback combo hope to keep their jobs, they better also hope that the soon departing Ozzie Newsome goes out with a bang in the draft. To do this, he’ll have to improve his track record in the second and third round. Here are some ways that he and the rest of the front office can do so:
Avoid talking themselves into a quarterback
The Ravens are a team at a crossroads for many reasons, one of which is the recent play of Joe Flacco. We can discuss whether his decline is the result of poor surrounding talent until the cows come home, but no matter how you slice it, he has to be better in 2018.
The fact that he hasn’t played well recently has drummed up some interesting discussion about the Ravens possibly targeting his successor in the upcoming draft. While I’m not saying they shouldn’t do that, the second/third rounds aren’t the right time for it given the current state of the franchise.
I know that there are plenty of examples of Day Two success stories at the position, but with the way the franchise has been trending, a round 2-3 quarterback in 2018 is a philosophical compromise that could set them back and rob Flacco of a fair shot at redeeming himself this season. Simply put, they need to embrace a rebuild by snagging a top passer in the first round by any means necessary, or push all their chips in on Flacco.
While the latter option doesn’t sound so appealing given the current low stock of the franchise quarterback, pushing all their chips in means actually putting him in position to succeed. How could they do that? Let’s take a look.
Acquire as many picks as possible
What’s one way to ensure that you hit a target? By throwing as many darts at it as possible.
If the Ravens really want to nail rounds 2-3, racking up picks across the two rounds could prove to be a worthy strategy. Whether it’s trading back in round one, or even letting a valued player go for a day two pick, the best way Baltimore can hit here is by filling up a Day Two war chest.
Of course, the amount of picks won’t matter unless they get the selections right. This leads us into a third and final course of action for the Ravens in rounds 2-3.
Stop messing around and fix the issues in the passing game
This is a statement that could probably be used at almost any point throughout the history of this franchise, but there’s reasons to think that Day Two could be the time to try and do it.
Recently, first round wide outs and tight ends have often struggled to make an immediate impact. Meanwhile, we’ve seen the second and third rounds produce players such as Jarvis Landry, Allen Robinson, Hunter Henry, Sterling Shepard, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cooper Kupp, and many other quality starters.
That isn’t to say the Ravens should totally eschew the idea of addressing wide receiver, tight end, or O-line in round one; it’s just that there’s a much bigger hit rate on Day Two recently. Meanwhile, Baltimore has recently opted to select players like Kamalei Correa, Chris Wormley, Tyus Bowser and Bronson Kaufusi over some of the previous offensive players listed.
That can’t happen this year. They’ve brought in John Brown and Michael Crabtree which is a nice start, but they need to keep their foot on the gas pedal. Using Day Two could be crucial to that.
D.J. Moore, D.J. Chark, Michael Gallup, Dallas Goedert, and Mark Andrews are just some names believed to possibly be available in the second or third rounds. In fact, the value for pass catchers is believed to be mainly rooted in these rounds, making this year the perfect time to finally get involved for Baltimore.
That would represent finally investing in Joe Flacco like they haven’t since early on in his career, giving him the true “all in” type treatment that he’ll need to revive his career this year.
If the Ravens do manage to nail not only Day Two, but the entire draft in a few weeks, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them back in the playoff picture soon. If they don’t at least improve in rounds 2-3, they may be looking at a rebuild moving forward.